Album Review: Glen Campbell – Meet Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell has accomplished something unique and extraordinary: he’s recorded a cover album that doesn’t pay homage to anyone except Glen Campbell.
There’s a very important difference between Meet Glen Campbell, Campbell’s album of famous pop songs, and the recent forays into pop music by contemporary country stars: Campbell doesn’t sing like someone who really, really loves The Foo Fighters and Tom Petty. He sings like an aging yet still vital artist who, no longer the recipient of Nashville’s best songs, has chosen an alternative path to discover “new” music. Thus, Meet Glen Campbell is refreshingly devoid of imitation and hero worship, and even when famous songs are not reinterpreted, they’re reimagined.
Much of this reimagination is indebted to the unusual compromise that resulted in Campbell’s first non-Christmas studio album in fourteen years and his reunion with Capitol Records, Campbell’s home during his superstar years. Producer Julian Raymond wanted to record new versions of Campbell’s greatest hits, but Campbell and Raymond settled on reinterpreting famous pop songs in the Campbell style in a manner that ranges from subtle to unmistakable: “Angel Dream” is built around “Gentle on My Mind” and the introduction to “Times Like These” is nearly identical to the one that made “Wichita Lineman” famous.
That Campbell is able to meld these two influences nearly flawlessly is testament to the fact that for a significant portion of his career, Campbell was a bona fide pop star. He cut his teeth as one of the most sought-after session guitarists in the country before touring with The Beach Boys as the replacement for Brian Wilson in 1964 and 1965. By 1967 Campbell had hit it big as a solo artist with pop and country hit “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and in 1969 Campbell sold more records than even The Beatles, fueled by hits “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” and an appearance in the motion picture True Grit. Campbell’s sound has always had one foot in Los Angeles and one in Nashville and his hits catalog is dotted by successful pop covers.
That background lends Meet Glen Campbell a remarkable credibility and results in a product that actually sounds like a vintage Glen Campbell record. Indeed, Meet Glen Campbell serves as a needed reminder of just how good pop-country can be: the richly textured arrangements, featuring Campbell’s virtuoso guitar work and support from Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction), are sophisticated without being artificial and sonically rich without becoming loud, while Campbell’s 72-year old voice packs a one-two punch of technical and interpretive ability: find another living legend who can hold pitch while mournfully bending “falling out of grace” in “Jesus.”
It’s a mistake to interpret the excellent Meet Glen Campbell as a legacy record ala Johnny Cash’s American Recordings or Porter Wagoner’s Wagonmaster; indeed, Campbell remains too vital to deserve such terminology. Rather, I interpret Meet Glen Campbell as a quiet yet assertive message to apologists for the mediocre practitioners of modern pop-country, to those who ascribe the condition of mainstream country music to evolution and minimize the talent disparity between modern stars and their forefathers: meet Glen Campbell.
Meet Glen Campbell Trailer:
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